getting (the) Gist

Gist combs through your in-box and contact list to give you a clearer view of who and what is important. This sounds like a pointless task until you’ve experienced the crush of too much e-mail from too many sources. Suddenly, tools like Xobni and Gist look like virtual life-preservers. But since it’s still being tested, Gist is somewhat raw and experimental, a love-it-or-leave-it proposition. Then again, what do you expect for free? Funny you should ask ..

First Impressions
I really like the look and feel of Gist. There are a number of reasons tthe application appealed to me –

: Slide-based controls are one of the easiest ways to express interest (or disinterest) in a topic.

Change Anything
: The more you can customize a tool, the more comfortable it feels. Of course this feature is much more charming the first time than the 40th.

It Just Works: Plugging in your Gmail account is easy but  for the moment that’s all you can do. But given the limits of the data in my Gmail account, Gist came up with some interesting connections. Well played.

Now the Bad News

Even if Gist makes a dent in the ocean of e-mail, would the product catch on? Early adopters might use it and give it a favorable rating; but what about the people who make (and pay) real money? Well, since Gist has thrown its hat into the ring let’s talk about what it could do better.

Semantic Search, Anyone?: If smart search were ever going to come out from behind the clouds, this would be an opportune time. No matter how imoprtant information on the web might be, it will never be as crucial as the treasure-trove of information buried in my own system.

If I Have to Rate One More Thing: The downside of having to rate everything is that if you don’t you can get incoherent results. After 14 years in practice, do you want to guess how much data that is?

Keep It Relevant: Gist tries to make connections between contacts, email, attachments, articles on the web, and my in-box. Often however, it brings up items that share or a word or phrase in common – and nothing else. That’s not a real connection.

Learn to Behave: If making relevant connections is too much to ask at this stage, how about learning from me as I use Gist? It’s simple behaviorism: if the application begins to react like me then I will perceive it as ‘smart.’

Parting Shots
I will use Gist some more and hope that it evolves. Thus far I give it a 3.5 out of 5. In the meantime I would certainly recommend it … except that it’s in closed beta so you’ll have to wait a little longer.

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